Sometimes it takes a long time to introduce new chinchillas to each other, sometimes not. Young chins are more forgiving, but hormones can be developing and make them aggressive too. We recommend placing the chins in separate cages side by side for at least two weeks and maybe more to allow them to get used to each other's smell. Then switch the cages, putting them in the other's cage. Eventually they can be put in a neutral or clean cage together, but always be available to watch them and if necessary to intervene. Patience is the key here, keep trying and keep them close to each other. Some chilla's will take to anyone, and some will never take to another chin. Be prepared to house them separate if that becomes the case.
Male chins are able to breed at the tender age of 8-10 weeks old. Females are not ready until about 6-8 months old, although some breeders have had the odd female that became pregnant at the age of 4 months. It's definitely better to have the females wait until they are at least eight months and older if possible, this gives them time to mature and achieve their maximum growth, especially in the pelvic region. Gestation is about 111 days from the day of mating, give or take a day or two. A litter can be one or up to six chins, but usually is one to two babies. Babies usually arrive in the wee hours of the morning but at times will appear later in the day.
A mum chin will labor for about an hour to an hour and a half with a baby and afterward clean the baby and dry it underneath her. If she has more than one baby it may be necessary for the breeder to interfere here and dry the first baby if she leaves it to move about the cage in her labor. A metal nest box then is a handy thing especially if you can mount a heating pad under it to keep babies warm while mom is out of the box. The pads made to warm reptiles are great for this, we duct tape them to the bottom and they supply just enough warmth. Mom will also appreciate the warmth while pregnant too.
Females also have two uteruses and will go into estrus immediately after birth so it may be necessary to remove the male a day or two before she delivers but keep him close in a nearby cage if you wish to reintroduce him later. He can be returned then after about 72 hours and will help out immensely with the babies. Afterward the babies will be well taken care of by both mom and dad and will be ready to be weaned at about 8 weeks old. Average sized babies are anywhere from 25 grams to 60 grams and of course bigger is always better and gives them a better chance of survival. They will start eating pellets and hay at about two weeks old, and are able to run about the cage from day one.
As cute as the adults are, babies are cute enough to eat (not literally though). The greatest danger at this time is for the babies to get out of the cage and become chilled, so care must be taken to somehow enclose the holes in the cage if they are larger than 1/2 inch by 1 inch. We have used gutter screening to wrap around the bottom 4 inches of the cages to prevent the more persistent escapees.
At about eight weeks the babies are weaned and the males are removed from the cage to prevent impregnating mum, females can remain with mom until about six months as long as dad is not also present. We like to keep babies for a week or so after weaning just to make sure that they are eating well and not overeating, which can cause diarrhea. But then they can go to their new homes or to juvenile cages to develop before breeding.
This is only a sampling of the information that is available on the care of chins, and there are many good web sites which provide great information. One of the books that we recommend is “The Joy of Chinchillas” by Betty Cogswell, Lani Ritchy and Roxanne Beeman. They have provided much needed research into chins and their diet and health problems. It is available on the internet at many sites and other information is available on their web site at http://www.cachins.org. We are always available to any chin owner for questions and of course to follow up on our chins in their new homes. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.